Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The 2011 Groundhog's Day Dump

Last Wednesday which happened to be Groundhogs Day, we had a serious snow storm here in Michigan. Pretty much everything shut down that day, including my agency that I work for. The storm started the night before with high speed winds and major snow. Noah spent the night in Rockford near the ski area where he works so he wouldn't have to drive the hour to work in the storm the next day. I was worried about the alpacas since it was so cold and windy and even thundering and lightening (which I have never experienced in the winter before), so I was bundled up and out in the barn at midnight to move alpacas around and plug up any cracks in the barn with hay and hay bales since it was blowing through even the tiniest cracks. My mom was staying with me that night and was worried I was going to get lost out in the snowstorm (which was not likely since our entire yard is fenced in). We joked about tying a rope from the house to the barn like they did in one of the classic Little House on the Prairie television episodes where they got a nasty snowstorm with white out conditions. They tied a rope from their house to the barn so they could hold onto it when going back and forth without getting lost in the white out. Here is a view of our house from the road.

In our hay barn, we keep all of our boys. I was worried about the direction the wind was blowing because it was coming in at a strange angle, right through their stall doors and the snow was already so deep that I couldn't get their stall doors closed. Therefore I moved the little boys into our fat camp in the large barn (where all our fat girls live) and moved the fat girls in with our nursing/pregnant skinny girls. I am sure glad I did because the inside of the hay barn was covered in several inches of snow the next morning. The only section that stayed clear was half of the large boys stall because it was far enough from the open doors that the snow did not reach that corner. In the picture below, you can just barely see the big boys in the right corner. We are going to have some major cleaning to do in this barn in the spring.

Don't get me wrong, alpacas tend to be pretty hardy animals and do pretty well in the cold and snow. But I always worry about our skinny girls, our older alpacas, our suris and sometime our cria as they are more vulnerable. I can't explain it, but it always seems like the ones who are more susceptible to cold, are the ones who are more likely to be laying right where the draft comes in (maybe because they are at the bottom of the pecking order and all the good spots are taken). When I got into the big barn that night, Bellesa and Paisley, our 2 that seem most affected by the cold, were sitting right where the door kept flapping open and were covered in snow. We have coats on these two girls as I will often catch them shivering. Luckily I was able to get the girls stall doors shut and the alpacas completely out of the elements. I would like to think that they would be smart enough to get out of the elements themselves if they were cold, but I think that their herd instinct is so strong, they will just go along with the alpha herd leaders (who in my experience are often the hardiest of the alpacas) and expose themselves to the elements along with everyone else. The strong herd leaders are able to weather the storm fine, but the weaker animals that follow them like the skinny ones or crias will follow along and don't do as well in the harsh elements. I don't always lock the alpacas in, only when it is extremely cold and windy, and that night it got to negative fourteen degrees on our farm with a major windchill. Also, by locking them in, it locks in all the body heat. With roughly 20 alpacas in that barn, I believe it stays considerably warmer in the winter. In addition, when temps are low, we always make sure to put out lots of hay because alpacas burn more calories to keep themselves warm plus the digesting of hay produces heat and keeps them warm. The colder the temps get, the more hay I put out. We try not to ever let their hay feeders get empty in the winter.

The fat girls and the skinny girls all hanging out together around one of the hay boxes keeping warm.

There were major drifts everywhere on our farm including in the barns where the snow blew through cracks all night. Noah came home Wednesday evening and fired up the tractor and spent a few hours digging our farm out of the snow. Here are some pictures he took the next day after everything was cleared.

The "Girl Barn" is on the left and the "Boy Barn" is on the right. Luckily, Wednesday night, Noah plowed a path out to the barns and dug out the doors. Wednesday morning, I had to jump over fences and sneak in through side doors just to get into the barns.

The snow is piling up outside the barn doors.

Catch pen full of snow. It is hard to see in the picture, but the snow is more than half way up our 5 foot fence and almost completely covering our 4 foot panels. The gates are impossible to open and close.

The inside of the girls barn. Notice the snow drifts at the far end. There is just a tiny crack under those end doors and all that snow came in and piled up overnight!

As much as I tried to block off the cracks, all this snow still managed to come in over night in the stall that the chickens and ducks hang out in in the winter.

The trusty tractor that dug us out. Every time Noah uses it, he says it is the best purchase we ever made for our farm.

Our driveway and entrance to the farm.

Our side yard and hay field beyond. We unfortunately did not get any pictures of our dogs Roz and Lola out in the snow, but you can see some of their tracks here. You know the snow is deep when your 3 1/2 foot high Great Danes have a hard time getting through it and jump through the snow like bunny rabbits.

Snow on what's left of our wood pile. We go through about 2-3 times this much wood to heat our house per year.

Our other side yard full of snow and dog tracks.

Our house buried in pine trees and snow.

The mailbox.

A massive icicle on the outside of our house....this can't be good for our house.

More icicles.

The snow was several feet deep near the road. The snow was piled up so high that it covered the first couple of rungs on our fence in the front yard. I was worried the dogs were going to just jump right over the fence.

The snow day made me wish I was a kid again....or that Eliza was big enough to go outside and play. With all the snow, there were endless possibilities for sledding, climbing snow mountains and building snow forts on our farm.

On one last note, since it is Groundhogs Day (or at least it was when we got the snowstorm), I should report that the famous Groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, did not see his shadow so spring will come early this year. I sure hope Phil is right because I am not ready for any more nasty snowstorms like the Groundhog's Day Dump or as it was also referred to, the Snowpocalypse and Snowmageddon of 2011. Unfortunately, Phil only tends to be right 39 % of the time. Happy Groundhogs Day everyone!


Oak Haven Alpacas said...

I love the idea of a rope from home to barn! We'll have to keep that in the back of our mind just in case LOL

While the cool breeze in the summer is great on your farm, I can see how in a storm like this, not so great. Our barns are more sheltered by the trees, but surely very hot in the summer.

I never thought about the herd leader also being the hardy one. That is true on our farm, our leader is Victoria and she'll sleep in a snow bank in a snow storm.

Esther said...

I totally remember that episode of Little House on the Prairie!

You guys got soooo much snow! I'm ready for spring...I bet Eliza is too! :)